Ruminations — some new, some old — on Independence Day, liberty, pursuit of happiness, Spirit of America, revolution and how it ends …
To help remind us that Independence Day is much more than beer, hot dogs, fireworks and family, that July 4 is etched in history as the birth of a nation the likes of which the world had never seen, the Observers since 2007 have published our special section, “Spirit of America.”
Each year we try to capture through the people who live among us the special characteristics that make Americans American and how these neighbors of ours embody and live those memorial words in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As you’ll see in this year’s section, our editorial staff focused on “the pursuit of happiness.”
How do we pursue happiness?
At the root of that pursuit is the human yearning to be free; to be individuals; to be free to make our own choices, choices in our self-interest and the interests of others; and not to be under the yoke of some tyrannical power who makes us slaves.
Far, far too few Americans seem to appreciate — indeed, revere — all of that. Nor do they appreciate how extraordinary were the Declaration of Independence and the aura around it or how precious it still is and how precious it is to their lives today.
We always hope our “Spirit of America” section helps stir readers’ patriotic sentiments. And we hope it reminds us that what we have — one of the freest nations in the world — is always so tenuous.
Often repeated are those famous words of founding father Benjamin Franklin. As he exited the Constitutional Convention, a group of citizens asked him what kind of government the delegates created. He responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Surely few in that group realized at that moment Franklin’s deep wisdom — foreshadowing the endless trials this republic has endured for 245 years.
We are in one of those trials now. As a friend has told us repeatedly: We have been in the midst of another civil war since 2016, at least since then — albeit one that so far, thankfully, has avoided widespread death.
It sure feels like a civil war.
For the generations that were born after World War II, the strife in America today might feel worse than at any other time. But to a great extent, it’s comparable to the social and civil unrest that swept the country in the 1960s and early 1970s. History always repeats.
We baby boomers lived through the racial riots that burned our major cities; through the radical terrorist attacks of the Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army, Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society — all Marxist-inspired groups. Their members were the leading anti-Vietnam War protesters and serious agitators for a major revolution.
In an 18-month period between 1971 and 1972, author Brian Burrough reports these groups set off 2,500 bombs across the U.S. “What makes the 1970s so different, especially from today,” Burrough told NPR, “is that there were all these militants that believed that the way to right these wrongs was to detonate bombs, was to assassinate policemen, was to engage in shootouts and kidnappings.” Then, as now, one of the war cries was police brutality against black people.
The Weather Underground also went so far as to detonate bombs in the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon in separate incidents in 1971 and 1972. But unlike today, neither Congress nor the U.S. military set up wire fencing with armed soldiers to surround the Capitol or Pentagon and protect members of Congress from the radical protesters.
Like an insidious cancer
To an extent, you can say history is repeating. But this time those who want to tear down our republic, who want to tear down what the framers’ extraordinary minds created (the most just constitutional republic in all of mankind), have spread far, wide and deep like an insidious cancer into our academies, halls of governments (local, state and national) and the courts.
We have lost two generations in our education system, conditioned to believe that what the founders created and all that followed should be rejected in favor of government models that have murdered and impoverished hundreds of millions. What’s more, those who reject what Americans have defended for 245 years have taken over in the highest places of public and corporate power. Their mission is increasingly clear: to enslave you to their power and the power of the state, to take away your freedom to pursue your happiness.
That is no exaggeration.
To pursue happiness, an essential requirement is that you must be free. Author Robert Reilly captured this idea well in his recent book, “America on Trial, a Defense of the Founding”:
“To be fully human, one must be free. That is why Jefferson said that ‘the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.’ If freedom is God’s intention for man, then the ground of freedom must be virtue so as to prevent enslavement by vice.”
In a similar vein, Reilly notes, “politics cannot meet the demands of the human soul, for it cannot achieve perfect justice. The founders realized that one must look beyond politics for the spiritual fulfillment for which man hungers.
“Any attempt to fulfill the soul’s ultimate desire through politics — by trying to achieve perfect justice — would transform the state into a totalitarian enterprise. The founders knew this,” Reilly writes.
If we want Americans to enjoy the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we must reject the politicians, academicians, court justices and agitators who reject the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the truths and principles that Americans have defended for 245 years.
Don’t count us out
How will the strife that has gripped this nation the past half-decade end?
In Robert Reilly’s “America on Trial,” he notes that John Adams wrote a letter in 1818 to a publisher:
“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People. … This radical Change in the Principles, Opinions, Sentiments and Affection of the People was the real American Revolution.”
We’re not suggesting we are headed toward another revolutionary war or another civil war full of death and destruction.
But the conflict in America today has two distinct, opposing sides that are festering “in the Minds and Hearts of the People.”
You can read many articles here and abroad of predictions of the fall of the American empire, much like the fall of the Roman Empire — destruction from within.
No one, of course, can see just yet how our troubles will end. Like most difficult times, they’re likely to get worse before they get better. And you can expect there likely will be a tipping point.
As noted earlier, to an extent, we are repeating some of the strife that tore the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. That ended with the adoption of the Civil Rights Act, the end of the Vietnam War, the resignation of Richard Nixon, and the eventual election of Jimmy Carter and his four years of malaise.
Then along came Ronald Reagan.
So don’t count us out. The pendulum will swing. We have been a resilient people from the moment the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Continue to believe that all men are indeed created equal, and stand strong for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Happy Independence Day.